Wellness Programs and Employee Productivity and Absenteeism
Business Research Proposal
Wellness Programs and The Impact on Employee Productivity and Absenteeism
Austin Peay State University
February 2, 2023
Preventive health initiatives and employee motivation campaigns have grown in importance and demand, making employee wellness programs an increasingly crucial area for innovation in employee services. Current health and wellness initiatives offer tools to combat bad behaviors, guidance on how to make healthier decisions, and health screenings, but they also suffer from poor planning and implementation, which managers can fix to promote innovation. Yet, there aren’t any comprehensive models out there now that can help managers identify and fix the issues with present projects. To fill this gap, we carried out a qualitative study on employee wellness initiatives with regard to output and absence. By combining this thorough literature analysis with Glaser and Strauss’ grounded theory, we developed an all-encompassing strategy to managing risk during the development of employee wellness programs in their efforts to improve productivity and absenteeism. Risks like poor implementation, organization, and leadership support were noted with this strategy. Also, this strategy uncovered answers such as focused initiatives, leadership involvement, and program follow-up.
Keywords: Literature Review, Health Programs, Productivity, Absenteeism
The strategy for locating and retaining competent personnel has changed over the past few decades in tandem with how the workforce of today has developed. When looking for, applying for, and accepting jobs, many people take into account both a company’s and organization’s benefits and drawbacks. The benefits offered, the organizational structure, and other elements may have an impact on a person’s decision to accept or reject a job offer. Before the last several decades, salary was the main determining factor in job searches. Specifically, which companies were paying the highest salaries. This might not be the case, though, in the workplace of today. Since they prefer obtaining intrinsic rewards over simply extrinsic ones, high-performing employees are typically motivated by causes other than money, claims Goleman (2003). In other words, employees want to believe that their job is making a difference in the communities and organizations they work for. As a result, organizations and executives need to use a variety of motivational strategies to effectively and productively manage their workforce.
The organization and its employers should make their workers feel valued. Employees want to feel like more than simply a number, just as they deserve acknowledgement, thanks, and respect from their employers. One way for businesses to accomplish this is by demonstrating to employees how much their employer cares about their health and wellbeing. Non-communicable diseases, include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, are the primary causes of death worldwide, according to Tulchinsky (2014). These problems are frequently made worse by poor eating habits, inactivity, and a lack of money. In order to help with these urgent issues, corporations have started establishing wellness programmes.
Progressive tools and advantages for employees, like as employee wellness initiatives, are used to entice top personnel. Programs for employee wellness are initiatives created by employers to assist the development of healthy habits as a form of health prevention and promotion, as well as to include secondary prevention like disease management (Horn et al., 2020). In-house wellness programs are becoming more and more popular among organizations, but many of these initiatives are not carried out effectively, which prevents them from reaping their full potential. As a result, it’s essential to carefully consider and comprehend what may be done to repair the flaws in the execution of wellness programs as well as how employers might change their strategy.
People in the United States spend more than a third of their lives at work (Holcomb, 2020). Many of these people spend their remaining spare time caring for families, working extra jobs, or attending to other responsibilities. As a result, people engage in these detrimental behaviors and practices and disregard the health and welfare of these workers. In the following sentences, we’ll apply a qualitative approach to assess and comprehend potential benefits of wellness programs and some drawbacks while also creating new areas of emphasis. Also, we’ll try to determine whether there is any relationship between the projects’ success and worker productivity and absenteeism, as well as whether these relationships are particularly strong.
Analyzing the literature
Businesses and organizations have begun incorporating employee wellness programs into their workforce and benefit offerings for a number of reasons. Wellness programs can enhance employee health, reduce absenteeism, and increase productivity, according to the arguments made by Penalvo, Varga, and Secchi. Together with additional benefits like lower healthcare expenses, these prospective benefits could motivate businesses to implement wellness programs. Bodin (2018) reports that two-thirds of firms presently provide wellness initiatives for their employees. That is, 90% of companies with more than 40,000 employees and enterprises with 50 or more employees both offer wellness programs (Mattke et al., 2015). Lally (2016) researched more than 2,000 employees, finding that those who completed weight-loss, exercise, or smoking cessation programs reported an increase in their own well-being measures of 13.5% and a decrease in overall healthcare expenditures 21.5%. Evidently, productivity rises, and absenteeism declines when staff members actively participate in wellness programs (Lally, 2016).
The phrase “wellness programs” is used to describe initiatives that assist people in forming healthy routines, altering unhealthy behaviors, and developing a holistic understanding of their physical, mental, and social well-being (Varga et al., 2021). These procedures relate to the requirement to recruit qualified personnel as well as how an employee feels their company regards them. Beyond monetary rewards and benefits, employees want to feel both fulfilled and content in their jobs. By successfully implementing wellness programs, these innate requirements can be met. Employee loyalty, productivity, and satisfaction can all be increased by integrating wellness initiatives into an organization’s structure (Pealvo et al., 2021). It has been demonstrated that job satisfaction caused by the installation of five or more wellness programs reduces turnover rates by 18% as compared to firms that did not implement wellness programs, where the average turnover rate was 29%. (Varga et al., 2021).
Just a few of the wellness efforts that businesses have already implemented include “health evaluations, well-being courses, health coaching, and biometric monitoring” (Lin et al., 2019). When workers feel that their company is concerned about their health and well-being, their commitment levels might rise, and positive behaviors like brainstorming, developing problem-solving abilities, and overcoming challenges in the workplace can happen (Lin et al., 2019). Employees who feel more valued and devoted to their firm typically produce more work and incur fewer indirect costs, like absenteeism, as a result (Grossmeier, 2017). Companies and executives must be able to successfully implement organizational initiatives to reduce overall costs while boosting employee engagement, morale, and productivity. We will cover this in more detail in the parts that follow, although it is not always the case.
As said earlier, establishing wellness programs in a workplace provides a number of benefits, including lowered stress, decreased absenteeism, increased engagement, and an overall improvement in medical problems (Warnsley, 2015). These health efforts, however, run the risk of failing if they are not carried out properly. Wellness programs can fail for a variety of reasons, including poor execution, a lack of employee engagement, and a lack of leadership commitment. Warnsley (2015) claims that a number of businesses don’t follow through on their investments in wellness efforts by neglecting to measure the efficacy of these wellness programs, missing the chance to accurately gauge changes in employee performance, absenteeism, and general health issues. These inefficiencies may reduce the efficiency of wellness program objectives and can be costly in terms of return on investment (ROI) and ongoing costs associated with absenteeism, poor productivity, and higher turnover rates.
Important concerns that businesses must address when attempting to implement a wellness program include employee involvement, participation, and incentive (Marshall, 2020). It can be challenging to get employees involved in wellness programs, and if this issue is overlooked, potential programs might not be successful. Research have indicated that employees are more willing to participate in wellness initiatives when they believe doing so will lead to healthier lifestyles and cheaper health insurance expenses (Marshall, 2020). Companies fail to live up to these expectations, though, by designing wellness programs that are too limited and don’t give participants access to all the essential resources (Marshall, 2020). Another factor affecting the success of the implementation of wellness programs is executive leadership, which many firms overlook to take into account during the implementation phase. A cross-sectional study found that businesses with greater levels of leadership support for wellness and health promotion efforts had higher employee engagement rates, lower absenteeism rates, and higher productivity (Hoert et al., 2018). The findings show, however, that many businesses struggle to sustain involvement over time because they fail to involve leadership in the rollout of wellness initiatives.
According to more studies, employee resistance is a critical indicator of wellness program failure. Employees are less likely to participate in programs than they might otherwise be because participation demands the disclosure of personal health information as a requirement of participation and there is a chance of financial benefits. According to Madison, staff members are concerned about potential financial commitments for these initiatives as well as potential discrimination based on attaining or missing particular promotion targets (2016). While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other legislation contain provisions shielding employees from undesirable effects of participation or voluntary non-participation, employees may not be aware of these provisions without communication from program managers and other leadership members. Privacy violations, heightened stigma, and higher possibilities of employment discrimination frequently come from a lack of knowledge of these laws (Madison, 2016).
Following a discussion of some of the shortcomings of current health and wellness programs, we’ll take a closer look at some fresh ideas for employee wellness efforts. Businesses and leaders must be able to spot where they are lacking and successfully implement changes if they want to promote the successful adoption of employee wellness initiatives. In all, better employee health supports a drop in absenteeism and, thus, higher production, according to Bottles (2015). A solid wellness program can be defined in a variety of ways, but there are a few key components that must be taken into account. Relevance, accessibility to low-cost or free programs, organizational alignment, multi-level leadership support, effective communication, and applicability are all prerequisites for successful wellness initiatives (Secchi et al., 2015). Wellness programs need the support and involvement of various levels of leadership to guarantee participation and employee commitment. Wellness initiatives should also be consistent with the organization’s existing goals and core values in order to better the mental and physical health and wellbeing of its personnel. If not, these initiatives might not last over time.
What are some ways that businesses might design a wellness program that will appeal to the interests of their staff? First off, a shortage of time can deter employees from enthusiastic participation. The commitments they have to their families, and other obligations restrict or deter many workers from participating. One strategy used by businesses to solve this issue is to design a wellness program that can be included into an employee’s existing routine. Contrary to what many employers think, there is a limit to how many hours a person may work productively in a day. In order to participate in healthy activities and take a mental break from their professional commitments, people might schedule time during their current shift. This helps staff members overcome time constraints while encouraging positive recurrent habits. This would be a fantastic chance to assess the viability of this suggestion further since there is currently no research that serves as an example of this approach.
New incentives that can be used to encourage employee participation should also be developed, as this would be advantageous. Many studies have been published recently that highlight wellness program incentives such health premium discounts, cash prizes, and reimbursements for expenditures connected to well-being, among others. Yet, none of these advantages could paint a picture that was convincing enough to persuade staff members to take part. Together with planning wellness breaks for employees, organizations should implement incentives for participation. Employees may receive additional paid time off (PTO) or the forgiveness of earlier absence infractions that they may have accumulated over time, among other benefits. With these two advantages, employees would be able to take more time off from work and address some of the undesirable habits they have been exhibiting, such absenteeism. When these benefits are combined with scheduled wellness time, employees can take breaks that are right for their health, which reduces absenteeism and increases productivity because of increased involvement. These initiatives could be evaluated by keeping track of the frequency of ongoing absences, calculating the number of workers who willingly accept the adjusted work schedules, and obtaining data on how much extra PTO has been accrued.
A qualitative research design was used for this proposed study. By utilizing the grounded theory study of Glaser and Strauss, we were able to investigate further the connection between employee health programs and the consequences on productivity and absenteeism. Grounded theory, according to Myers (2020), is a qualitative research process that seeks to develop a theory that is founded on data that has been methodically collected and reviewed. To put it another way, grounded theory enables the researcher to create a hypothesis rather than start with one and use data to support it. Grounded theory was determined to be an effective research approach for this study due to the fact that it has provided a structured process for collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing data on the relationships between wellness efforts and employee productivity and absence. According to Hussein (2014), Grounded theory provides guidelines for conducting research, boosts researchers’ confidence when they begin to second-guess their choices, and enriches their thought processes as they go. On the other hand, the framework may not be provided by other qualitative research methods, and they risk becoming ineffectual if not carefully controlled.
Active full-time workers who have been working for more than 90 days made up the study’s target group. Also, the targeted businesses included by this survey employed 50 or more people. We were able to investigate additional subpopulations within the organization that share common characteristics by using stratified random sampling. By the use of secondary data gathered from earlier works of literature, we were able to perform this study and propose potential future research fields. This body of literature included numerous scholarly articles that had been peer-reviewed in the past, published research papers, individual and organizational surveys, and data analysis done by an outside human resources firm. NVivo, a program created to quickly and effectively compare data collected to uncover similarities and trends, was used to evaluate this data. NVivo is a qualitative software application. These analytical tools enable program administrators and leaders to assess the success of their wellness efforts.
Framework for theory:
Several factors influence the development of employee wellness programs and other health initiatives. Recruitment is a key component in luring and selecting talented people to work for their company. Second, the goal of these efforts is to raise employee engagement and happiness by demonstrating to employees that employers care about their health and well-being. Lastly, organizations use wellness programs to address negative employee characteristics like low productivity and absenteeism. Cognitive dissonance theory (CDT), developed by Leon Destinger, states that psychological tension arises when a person’s action conflicts with their ideas and thoughts (Harmon-Jones & Mills, 2019). Dissonance, a phrase that describes both psychological pain and the gap between cognitions, highlights behaviors and perspectives people desire to change (Harmon-Jones & Mills, 2019).
According to a previous CDT study, workers who engaged in unfavorable conduct and received lower incentives changed their behavior to reflect this (Hinojosa et al., 2017). Management was able to examine the impact of incentives on attitudes and behaviors more closely, thanks to the increased research capabilities. The four processes in the arousal and reduction of dissonance, according to Hinojosa et al., are the cognitive discrepancy, dissonance, motivation, and discrepancy reduction (2017). These techniques aid in identifying the primary cognitive conflicts, emphasizing the negative effects of inconsistency, boosting motivation brought on by dissonance, and demonstrating that people may minimize dissonance by changing their cognitive beliefs. Dissonance can be lessened by eliminating discordant cognitions, adding new consonant cognitions, decreasing the importance of dissonant cognitions, or boosting the importance of consonant cognitions (Harmon-Jones & Mills, 2019).
When it comes to employee wellness initiatives, cognitive dissonance theory is crucial for identifying employees’ unfavorable attitudes and behaviors as well as how these behaviors can be changed for the good of the individual and the firm. For instance, a worker who learns that poor mental health, increased stress, and inactivity might all increase the risk of heart disease and stroke may sense dissonance. In this case, the employee could alter their behavior to alleviate mental stress and lessen dissonance by being more physically active. By eliminating the conflicting cognitions, these acts would have positive side effects that might raise employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. It is imperative to keep in mind that the employee can minimize dissonance by altering their perspective on the effects that unproductive conduct and high levels of stress may have on them. If an employee adopts the notion that being sedentary will lessen their chance of accident or injury and that going through more stress will make them cognizantly awake, their dissonance may decrease but their negative behaviors remain the same. It’s important to keep an eye on these factors and handle them in a way that promotes positive change rather than enables people to adapt or normalize bad behaviors.
In light of this, research shows that despite the fact that wellness initiatives have been around for a while, it can be difficult to consistently evaluate their benefits and degree of effectiveness. Although over two-thirds of employers provide wellness initiatives, some firms find it difficult to implement them (Bodin, 2018). Many companies fall short of their commitments, leaving customers with little to no results or making it difficult to analyze the information these health efforts have generated adequately. Companies must prioritize hiring and keeping talented workers while also ensuring they uphold their obligation to operate profitably. Employee productivity and absenteeism can be reduced through employee wellness programs with the right framework and the dedication of senior leadership. It will take further investigation to fully comprehend and benefit from developing and putting into practice an effective and well-organized employee wellness program. More study is needed to better understand how rewards, leadership participation, and program follow-up impact the outcomes of certain wellness initiatives. Although past studies highlighted short-term benefits from establishing and changing wellness programs, the evidence currently available does not demonstrate long-term advantages acquired over an extended period. Due to time constraints, a lack of resources, or personnel change, several investigations were unable to be completed. These setbacks, nonetheless, ought to serve as inspiration to keep creating, putting into practice, and investigating the advantages wellness programs offer for personnel and the firm.
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